The state’s easing of restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is allowing more businesses the leeway to gradually open, while local programs continue to offer assistance.
San Antonio and Bexar County, meanwhile, have kept requirements for social distancing and continue to urge the wearing of facial coverings in public. Gov. Greg Abbott advocates the use of protective masks, but said they’re not mandatory.
The city and county, along with organizations and establishments, are striving to help people most adversely affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Two teams of appointed local experts and civic leaders have recommended further safety measures, increased testing and surveillance of the virus, and ways merchants could safely operate.
County Judge Nelson Wolff and Mayor Ron Nirenberg agree wearing masks outside is key to slowing the spread of COVID-19.
“(The governor’s plan) is not going to be successful without the guidelines we put in,” Wolff said during a recent press briefing.
“Social distancing and other commonsense measures recommended by our public-safety officials have been successful,” Nirenberg added in a statement.
Abbott increased the business-occupancy limit to 50 percent May 18. Bars, aquariums, bowling alleys and other venues were also allowed to open with limited capacity and 6 feet or more between patrons.
The governor ordered that schools and colleges stay closed through the rest of the spring semester. However, school districts continue to provide curbside meals to young families.
Between mid-March and April 30, the North East Independent School District had served 1 million meals.
“School closures threatened the food access for these children,” Sharon Glosson, the district’s executive director of school nutrition services, said in a statement. “The NEISD meal program took one worry off of parents’ minds since they knew that their children would be provided with nutritious meals.”
The state is allowing in-person commencement exercises with proper distance between audience members, but others have arranged virtual ways for new graduates to celebrate.
The Hollywood Park Community Association organized a mini-parade May 30, inviting local high school and college seniors to cheer on parade-goers from their front yards.
Free supplies of hand sanitizer from local distillers Maverick Whiskey and Rebecca Creek Distillery were given to the Shavano Park Police Department.
San Antonio received $270 million in federal funds to help offset costs of responding to the pandemic.
The city also created a $25 million program to help eligible residents with costs of rent, mortgage, utilities, internet access, groceries, medicine and fuel.
“The city of San Antonio’s COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program is the most comprehensive housing and utility assistance program in the state because it builds upon the affordable housing priorities the City Council set long before the COVID-19 pandemic,” City Manager Erik Walsh said in a statement.
In addition, San Antonio launched a “Donate to the Arts” feature on its website, www.getcreativesanantonio.com/, to support local nonprofit arts agencies impacted by the crisis.
The county began a $4 million pool to provide a maximum of three months of rental aid for residents affected by job loss or furlough.
On May 19, Bexar County commissioners voted to set aside $1.5 million in federal relief funds for small business grants.
Area businesses and students have taken matters into their own hands.
CANopener Labs, an area prototyping and development space, has been using a 3D printer to create face shields for health care workers and first responders.
A group of NEISD students developed a ventilator prototype that costs only $700; most ventilators cost $20,000 to $30,000.
Private and public construction projects have continued mostly unaffected by the outbreak.
The San Antonio Public Works Department has made progress on area projects funded by the 2017 city bond, including upgrades to De Zavala Road from Interstate 10 to Lockhill Selma Road, and the Hardberger Park land bridge.
The latter has resulted in weekend closures of Wurzbach Parkway between Blanco Road and Northwest Military Highway.
Embrey Partners, a local developer, continued work on a 296-unit apartment complex along U.S. 281 near the Hill Country Village city limits.
San Antonio Water System’s long-anticipated and oft-controversial Vista Ridge pipeline project went live April 15, providing customers with an alternative water supply.
The massive construction project extends from east of Austin, and includes the building of water tanks and mains in Stone Oak. It provides another source of water for the city in addition to the Edwards Aquifer.
Richard Perez, San Antonio Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said in a statement that securing additional water sources is one of the Chamber’s priorities to help support continued economic growth in the San Antonio area.
“Water is the basis for San Antonio’s prosperity, and new water supplies will move the city forward for decades to come,” he added.